Recommended route for visitors
Gabriele Finaldi, Deputy Director of Conservation and Research at the Museum, suggests the ideal way to proceed around the Museum now that the principal part of the rehanging of the collections has been completed.
Visitors approach the Museum according to their particular interests, guided by the pleasure of discovery and seeking out the works that they most wish to see or following the routes suggested by the audioguides. The rehanging and rearrangement of the collections initiated in 2009 offers an ideal route around the Prado in an essentially chronological order. This itinerary takes the form of a loop, starting on the ground floor in the centre of the Villanueva Building in the room dedicated to the Muses (the goddesses that inspired art and hence the mythical protectresses of the Museum) and proceeding towards the north of the building to the Medieval, Renaissance, Flemish, Italian and Spanish collections. The Lower Goya Rotunda gives access to the Upper Goya Rotunda on the first floor which is presided over by Charles V and the Fury, a bronze sculpture of one of the founders of the Spanish royal collection and the work that marks the start of a route that moves from sixteenth-century Venetian painting to seventeenth-century Italian, French, Flemish and Spanish painting, the latter primarily defined by the work of Velázquez. This route concludes with eighteenth-century painting and the work of Goya around 1800. The Central Gallery allows for a perfect grasp of this process of artistic development given that it begins with Titian, links up in the centre with the great Velázquez Room (room 12) and encompasses the majestic works of Rubens before allowing for a final view in the distance of The Family of Charles IV by Goya.
The restoration of the Museum's galleries and the rearrangement of the collection have created a more natural relationship between the various groups of paintings, schools and artists, while making better use of the architectural characteristics of the rooms (paying attention to whether they are large or small and open or closed, as well as to the sequences of the rooms and the presence of natural or artificial light) and offering the visitor a wider range of more accessible information (wall panels and labels in Spanish and English). Interesting viewpoints have been created, as well as juxtapositions charged with historical and aesthetic significance. Bearing in mind that there are three blocks of rooms that flank the Central Gallery longitudinally, the works on display have been grouped together with the aim of emphasising the relationships existing between them. El Greco is the subject of the first sequence of rooms flanking the Central Gallery, an option that creates a visual relationship with Titian, of whom El Greco considered himself a follower. The next group of rooms houses works by José de Ribera and connects longitudinally with the galleries devoted to seventeenth-century Italian painting at one end and with Velázquez at the other.
Finally, and establishing a connection with Ribera and Velázquez, there is a suite of galleries that runs from Maíno to Zurbarán and includes a room devoted to the Hall of Realms in the Buen Retiro Palace. These galleries offer a survey of Spanish painting of the 1630s, culminating with The Surrender of Breda. Velázquez occupies the central area of the main floor, with six galleries arranged thematically and chronologically, starting with his Sevillian period and moving on to his Italian trip, court portraits and religious and mythological compositions.
In the rooms flanking the Central Gallery in the south part of the building where large-format works by Rubens and Van Dyck are displayed, the visitor will find the ample space of room 16b, which houses works by seventeenth-century Flemish painters together with Rembrandt's Judith. It is followed by the galleries devoted to Murillo, an artist markedly influenced by Flemish art, which in turn connect longitudinally with the final Velázquez rooms. The last group of rooms (to be restored in 2012) will be devoted to Madrid painters of the High Baroque such as Carreño, Rizi and Coello.
This recommended route continues on to the south block of the Villanueva Building where eighteenth-century European painting is displayed, including a thematic room devoted to Bourbon Portraiture (inaugurated in April 2009) in which the highlight is The Family of Philip V by Louis Michel van Loo. The collection of paintings by Francisco de Goya, which is the finest and most varied to be found in any museum or collection worldwide, is presented over the three floors of the south block: the second floor has tapestry cartoons together with the earliest works by the artist; the first floor shows works up to around 1800 including the Majas; and the ground floor presents Goya’s works from the nineteenth century (The Second of May, The Third of May and the Black Paintings). Completing the loop, this suggested route ends with the collections of nineteenth-century painting and sculpture from the Neo-classical period to the dawn of the twentieth century, displayed on the ground floor and taking the visitor back to the Muses Gallery.
- Gabriele Finaldi
- Deputy Director of Conservation and Research